There’s a new look on the horizon for commercial airline cockpits—and we’re not talking about the instrumentation. The airline industry is embracing its restart with a comeback that will be better than ever, with diversity and inclusion taking center stage.

Working the numbers

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 93.7 percent of professional pilots are white and 92.5 percent are male. The new industry initiatives hope to change these percentages. And the timing couldn’t be better as it comes on the heels of the nation’s ongoing pilot shortage.

Getting on board

Airlines are realizing they must broaden their scope when it comes to searching for talent. Many have pledged to make diversity a priority—at all levels—within their companies, and this encompasses hiring practices, management and company culture. Women, people of color and other underrepresented groups will be part of the industry restart initiative, keeping these demographics front and center when it comes to opening the doors of opportunity for careers in aviation.

United Airlines announced its new diversity goal and plans to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030, with at least half of them being women and people of color. Delta Air Lines committed to improving their efforts on a year-by-year basis. Last December, Delta joined forces with the founding members of OneTen, an organization of American corporations committed to hiring, training and promoting one million Black Americans over the next 10 years. American, Alaska Southwest and JetBlue are also making commitments to racial inclusion. Globally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) launched its 25by2025 initiative, which aims to make aviation more gender-balanced by increasing the number of women in the industry by 25 percent by the year 2025.

Breaking barriers

For inner-city children of color, working in the aviation industry may not even be on their radar due to the lack of exposure and the high cost of becoming a pilot. Chairman of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) Joel Webley said airlines should increase their efforts with minority groups by putting an emphasis on providing paid internships for college students. Luckily, one of the many missions of Vaughn’s career services department is to create opportunities for students to get paid internships.

How Vaughn embraces diversity

The faces of the Vaughn College community are reflective of the diversity found in its home borough of Queens and of its core values of embracing diversity, welcoming students from all cultures, heritages and economic backgrounds. Also worth noting is how Vaughn’s aviation, engineering and technology, and management programs have attracted more women in recent years, and Vaughn President Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo is committed to growing female enrollment across all programs at the College.

“Vaughn’s diversity is our ‘super power,’” notes DeVivo. With 80 percent of our students coming from minority backgrounds and a majority, minority faculty and staff, we are committed to serving individuals from underrepresented groups and our graduates are changing the industry.”

DeVivo is also the national chair for the Youth in Access to Aviation Jobs in America Task Force and is working with a group of 20 national leaders to grow the pipeline of young people, specifically from underrepresented groups, pursuing careers in aviation and aerospace. The Task Force hopes to make their final recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress in 2022.

Vaughn makes it affordable

Vaughn College offers federal, state and institutional funding to help students pay for their education. In fact, 90 percent of Vaughn students are eligible for some type of financial aid, with the average package totaling more than $15,000 per year. Vaughn also offers several scholarships and programs like HEOP (Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program) that help students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to attend college.

Vaughn ranked number one in upward mobility

Part of Vaughn’s success is reflected by its impressive position of having been ranked as the nation’s number one college in upward mobility. According to a 2017 study published in The New York Times, Vaughn College is noted as “an institution doing more to impact social mobility for those who start from less fortunate means,” and is also listed as the top institution for moving students from the bottom percentages to the top 40 percent in income. The article stems from a study conducted by The Equality of Opportunity Project entitled, “Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility.”

In addition, Vaughn ranks high in both economic and ethnic student body diversity among US colleges and is also a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution.

Do you have a passion for flying? An aviation degree from Vaughn College can set your career soaring. Apply today!

Welcome to a special edition of the Vaughn College blog. We are excited to share with you our popular Management Speaker Series, where we take a deeper dive into how this instrumental networking experience inspires and educates Vaughn’s students, faculty and members of our community.

We met up with Dr. Maxine Lubner, professor and chair of the management department at Vaughn, who offered her insights and expertise in spearheading the speaker series and the important role it continues to play in the success of Vaughn’s students who are seeking a degree in airport, airline and general management.

A network of experience

Part of Vaughn’s commitment to the success of its students is the industry experience so many of its instructors and professors bring into the classroom. The Management Speaker Series takes that commitment one step further by bringing real-world knowledge to our students through the exceptional reputations and experience of our network of aviation management professionals. “The Management Speaker Series is a great way for industry professionals to share their experiences,” said Dr. Lubner. “It’s a win-win, as it helps to enhance Vaughn’s reputation as a stellar institution while offering networking opportunities and valuable information for our students, faculty, and attendees. It’s just one of the ways Vaughn gives back to its students.”

Here, we highlight two industry professionals who bring years of experience from a variety of roles that encompass the world of aviation management.

Bradley Mims

Bradley MimsOn Friday, March 19, the management department welcomed A. Bradley Mims, who was recently appointed deputy administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). For more than 40 years, Mims has served as a transportation professional in government and the private sector. Mims spoke of many “firsts” in his career, which included working as the first African American staffer for Gaylord Nelson, a former senator from Wisconsin, as well as being the first African American legislative director for the late Congressman Lewis, which he said was the turning point in his career.

During his discussion about aviation safety careers, Mims offered valuable advice to Vaughn students who participated in the session. He expressed the importance of not limiting yourself to just the job. “Learning how to lead people can put you in the upper echelon,” Mims said. “Progress and grow to become an expert in your field so you can put yourself in the capacity to lead and manage.” During his time working in the industry, Mims said he had to reinvent himself to learn about other avenues and opportunities. “We develop a level of love in what we do,” he explained. “To get to the next level, it’s important to expand your horizons of what you love. Be a leader and a teacher of the people.”

Kim Day

Kim DayThe management department at Vaughn welcomed Kim Day, chief executive officer at Denver International Airport (DEN) who spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on airports. For the past 13 years, Day led DEN to become the nation’s fifth-busiest airport as well as the region’s most powerful economic engine, having generated more than $33.5 billion annually. Denver International Airport entered the COVID-19 pandemic fiscally strong. During the presentation, Day explained how COVID-19 impacted airport operations, the management of DEN’s finances (post-pandemic) and how leveraging new technologies has been beneficial to the airport. With 700 days (approximately two years) of operating costs on hand, DEN is one of the few airports that did not have to lay employees off due to the pandemic. She explained how the airport deferred airline rental for three months and temporarily moved to a flat percentage of sales model for concessions and rental cars to further protect the airport’s ecosystem. Day expressed to the students that the whole ecosystem must be supported as concessionaires and rental car companies heavily affect revenue. “The lessons learned are to develop alternative plans,” she said. Currently, Day is heading a redevelopment of DEN’s iconic and tented Jeppesen Terminal that will modernize the facility, improve its security model and increase its capacity.

Benefits of the Management Speaker Series

The Management Speaker Series provides valuable opportunities for its attendees. The series is open to all students, faculty, and staff who are interested in hearing the latest industry news from top professionals in their field. Some of the benefits of attending include:

  • Excellent networking opportunities
  • Exposure to role models in high-level positions
  • Vision into where a Vaughn management degree can lead
  • Valuable insights on the future of aviation, industry analysis and the inside scoop on how airports are run
  • Understanding current protocols for COVID-19 and how to find opportunities for growth during a pandemic

Shifting to an online platform

Dr. Lubner explained how—despite having to shift the Management Speaker Series from its original in-person classroom presentations to a Zoom platform—attendees still continue to benefit from these sessions in more ways than expected. Here are some examples of how attending the Management Speaker Series via Zoom is making the experience more fruitful:

  • Greater convenience for speakers and listeners to attend
  • Normally shy or timid students can interact easily by asking questions via the chat
  • Attracts a broader audience that includes members of the industry advisory council, trustees and members of administration from other colleges
  • Greater ability to secure a broad range of speakers when travel is not a factor

Stay tuned for future blogs as we feature more inspiring speakers who will fuel your passion for working in the aviation and airline management industry.

Are you interested in a career in this exciting field? Discover the various career possibilities that an airline/airport management degree from Vaughn can provide. Interested in learning about where Vaughn students have landed with their airport management degrees? Check out the inspirational stories of Otha Ward ’19, Patrick Batey ’16  and Edison Luo ’15.

The future of urban air mobility will reach new heights as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is collaborating with NASA on their Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign. Yes, the future of “flying cars” may be closer than we think, as efforts to accelerate the realization of emerging aviation markets for passenger and cargo travel is looking up—literally.

Vaughn College discusses NASA’s vision as part of the Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign and how this evolving transportation system may become a reality sooner than you think due to a growing focus on environment sustainability. But first, let’s get you caught up on what urban air mobility is.

What is urban air mobility?

NASA defines urban air mobility (UAM) as a “system for air passenger and cargo transportation within an urban area, inclusive of small package delivery and other urban unmanned aircraft systems services.” In other words, NASA’s vision of this new era in air travel is to ensure safe and efficient air transportation as a revolutionary way of safely moving people and cargo from one place to another in congested environments. You can read more about this in our blog, Urban Air Mobility: Transforming Sky Transportation.

NASA’s vision for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) mission

Imagine beating traffic on the roadways by traveling in a revolutionary aircraft instead of driving? NASA’s vision is to help emerging aviation markets develop an air metro transportation system to move people and cargo between areas not previously served—or underserved—by aviation that uses revolutionary new aircraft. This project will provide a substantial benefit not only to the public but also to the industry. Here are some key points that align with NASA’s vision for AAM:

  • Local and intraregional aviation missions are safe, sustainable, accessible and affordable.
  • Ensures the program will include local missions of an approximate 50-mile radius in rural or urban areas, and a few hundred miles for intraregional missions that occur between urban areas as well as between rural areas—or between rural and urban areas.
  • Missions include the transportation of passengers, cargo and aerial work missions, including infrastructure inspections or search and rescue operations.

Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign

Beginning in 2022, NASA will begin hosting a series of activities as part of its Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign. The campaign is designed to promote public confidence in the safety of AAM while capturing the imagination through community-wide learning. The series will provide industry insights to prospective vehicle manufacturers, operators and prospective airspace service providers. The series is also geared toward gathering industry partners that include aircraft manufacturers and airspace service providers.

The vehicles that make it happen

With all the excitement surrounding UAM, it’s time to focus on the vehicles that can ultimately make this vision a reality. The vision involves two factors—new aircraft designs and systems technologies. It’s anticipated that some of the new aircraft designs will include, for example, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities for metropolitan commutes. Thanks to the advancement of distributed electric propulsion (DEP) and the development of electric VTOLs (eVTOLs), it may be possible for these operations to be utilized more frequently, as well as in more locations. Industry professionals believe initial operations will be flown with a pilot in command (PIC) on board the VTOL aircraft. Looking to the future, sky transportation has the potential to becoming fully autonomous with remote PICs.

When will it happen?

According to a report recently published by, titled, “Urban Air Mobility Market Size, Share, Study By Component, By Operations By Range, And Segment Forecasts” air metro will be a viable market by 2028, and may well replace standard public transit options such as subways and buses, among other vehicles. The report cites that Europe is the fastest-growing region in the urban air mobility market. Additionally, the global urban air mobility market is expected to reach $7.9 billion by 2030. Several companies have developed eVTOL prototypes, which include Airbus A3, AIRSPACEX, Carter Aviation, Passenger Drone, Lilium Aviation, Volocopter, Aurora Flight Sciences (A Boeing Company), Joby Aviation, Workhorse, Delorean Aerospace, XTI Aircraft, AviaNovations and Embraer.

Vaughn’s readiness in AAM

We caught up with Dr. Hossein Rahemi, chair of Vaughn’s engineering and technology department regarding an exciting new unmanned aerial systems (UAS) certificate program that Vaughn is in the process of developing. “We have developed the curriculum and received New York State Department of Education approval for the new program, which will give students the knowledge and skills to be marketable in the growing field of air mobility.” He explained that this certificate program will cover design, construction, application, operation and system integration for unmanned aeriel vehicles (UAV). “Courses will cover topics such as introduction to UAV, drones’ rapid prototyping, drone law and remote piloting—where students will gain hands-on experience in designing, constructing and operating UAVs for specific applications,” Rahemi said. The Vaughn community is very excited about rolling out the new program in the coming months.

Vaughn’s mission is to provide a dynamic learning environment built on our aeronautical heritage that inspires a diverse and committed community of students to achieve success as leaders in the industries we serve. Rahemi went on to note that the the UAS certificate program carries out this mission by providing students with the skills, engineering and application-oriented education that will enhance their career opportunities in today’s aerospace, UAV and air mobility industries.

See how an engineering and technology degree from Vaughn College can set you on a path to a futureproof career. Apply today!

Dedication, perseverance and willpower proved to be a winning combination for the Vaughn College Robotics Team as they discovered the right formula to qualify for the VEX Robotics World Championship 2021 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We caught up with Timothy Tullio, team president, and Maharshi Patel, vice president, to hear how the team switched gears to maintain their focus while keeping things “business as usual.”

A different kind of competition

The VEX robotics engineering competition was structured differently this year. Tullio described the competition as more of a “skills event” as the teams played against themselves as an “us versus the clock” scenario. Their scores were then compared to other teams who also competed virtually around the world. The team described this year’s game as “Tic-Tac-Toe meets Connect Four.” The goal was to score as many points as possible in one minute. The more rows the team was able to connect, the more points they earned.

Building up to the competition

Tullio and Patel agreed that the element of strategy was similar to last year’s competition, but managing the room was completely different. Due to social distancing protocols, only six team members were permitted in the room at the same time. They said keeping the groups small helped to build a stronger relationship between team members. “When we weren’t in a Zoom class, we were working on the robots. From the time we woke up until bedtime, it was all about getting the job done.”

Keeping the teamwork alive

Vaughn’s robotics team pulled out all the stops to reach their goal. From conducting weekly Zoom meetings to using various platforms that included Microsoft Team and WhatsApp, the team was able to stay connected, coordinating all necessary meetings to keep the process flowing smoothly. The team members explained that last summer, they carried out all their computer-aided design (CAD) work from home. They designed the protype virtually, thus acquiring all the necessary licenses they needed to move forward with building their robot.

Vaughn at their side

Everyone involved expressed how Vaughn remained a positive force in supporting the robotics team—as well as other student-run campus activities—despite these uncertain times. “Vaughn was strict as far as following COVID-19 protocols, but through Zoom calls and other measures, the College helped us in every way they could. We are grateful the College was there for us and had our best interest at heart.”

Vaughn’s robotics team was named World Champions at the 2016 VEX World Robotics Competition in Louisville, Kentucky. Hear from the team president at the time regarding the big win.

Are you interested in pursuing robotics engineering as a career? Check out Vaughn’s renowned mechatronic engineering program which combines electronic, mechanical and computer engineering. The program is designed to prepare students for the ever-changing high-tech industries and careers of the future.

Lonnie Johnson is an innovator, NASA engineer, member of the Air Force and inventor of the wildly popular Super Soaker—among other great inventions. Read on to learn about Johnson’s early passion for engineering and how his natural curiosity has led him to achieve an incredible career that continues to elevate him to new heights.

A curious nature

Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1949 Lonnie Johnson seemed destined for a life that involved the complexities of engineering, technology and science even before his invention of the Super Soaker. Early examples of this natural inclination toward science included reverse engineering one of his sister’s dolls in order to see how the eyes operated and building a go-cart that was powered by the engine of a lawnmower. By the time he was in high school, his aptitude for all things scientific earned him the nickname “The Professor” among his fellow students.

Preview to success

In 1968, Williamson High School was among the entries in a science fair that was sponsored by the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) and held at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa. Representing Williamson High School was Lonnie Johnson, who also happened to be the only Black student in the fair. The project that Johnson submitted for the science fair was “The Linex,” a compressed-air-power robot, which won the first prize.

In addition to science, Johnson was excellent in math, which helped him secure a scholarship to attend Tuskegee University. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and then went on to earn a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

A military career

If Johnson’s academic achievements were impressive, they were only the beginning of greater things to come. Upon graduating from Tuskegee University, he began his professional career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a multi-program science and technology laboratory sponsored by the US Department of Energy. He also helped in the development of the stealth bomber program when he enlisted with the United States Air Force.

Eventually, Johnson’s talent in engineering and military background brought him to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the late 1970s. Here, he performed double duty as a systems engineer for both the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. Johnson remained with the Air Force until 1987.

The invention of the Super Soaker

In 1982, Johnson was experimenting with the creation of a heat pump that would run on water instead of Freon. He attached some nozzles to his bathroom sink, which, when opened led to a powerful burst of water into his tub. This experiment led to an invention that—after seven years of redesigns and renames—became the world-famous water gun, the Super Soaker. So popular was this new toy, that in 1991 it generated $200 million in sales. In that same year, Johnson founded his own company, Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc. Later, Tuskegee University awarded him an honorary PhD in science in 2001 in recognition of his career achievements.

Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC)

Another crowning achievement in the life and career of Lonnie Johnson was the creation of a special kind of engine. The purpose of this engine was to convert heat into electricity more efficiently. Upon completion, this engine—the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC)—went on to help in the progress of renewable energy and was listed as among the world-changing inventions by Popular Mechanics in 2008. In his ongoing effort to improve revolutionary energy technology, Johnson founded two companies—Excellatron Solid State and Johnson Battery Technologies, Inc.

Lonnie Johnson currently holds more than 100 patents with 20 more pending, many of which are connected to his invention of the Super Soaker and was named by IEEE Spectrum as being “part of a small group of African-American inventors whose work accounts for six percent of all US patent applications.”

The value of curiosity

If there is one constant to the life and career of Lonnie Johnson, it is curiosity. From his childhood when he examined how toys worked to becoming the inventor of the world-famous Super Soaker, to the creation of the JTEC, Johnson was never content to rest on past achievements. His curiosity keeps him seeking, inventing and inspiring.

Are you curious about the intricacies of how things work? This is, in its own right, almost a requirement for anyone who chooses to enter into the study of engineering and technology or aviation—fields which are specialties to Lonnie Johnson. Let Vaughn College help to nurture and feed your curiosity with one of our associate, bachelor’s and master’s programs.

Contact us to learn more.

Photo credit: BBC

March is Women’s History Month, when we recognize and celebrate the lives, contributions and achievements of women who made their marks in history and modern-day society.

In observance of this celebration, Vaughn College is honored to spotlight Bernice “Bee” Falk Haydu, an extraordinary aviation pioneer who paved the way for women pilots and gender equality. Haydu turned 100 years old last December but sadly passed away in January. Read on to learn more about some of the events in her amazing life—from being among the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in World War II to being awarded with an honorary doctorate degree by Vaughn as we highlight her exemplary career and service for Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8.

Earning her wings

Born in Montclair, New Jersey on December 15, 1920, Haydu was the younger of two children raised during the Great Depression. Due to financial hardship, Haydu’s parents could not afford to send both children to college. Haydu therefore stayed behind and worked as a secretary while her brother, Lloyd, went on to further his education and later enlisted in the Army Air Force. After realizing that she, too, had a passion for flying, Haydu enrolled at the Newark College of Engineering where she took aviation classes on the weekends. In 1944, she attended the WASP training program in Sweetwater, Texas, where she trained for seven months and logged 210 flight hours flying aircraft that included the Boeing PT-17 Stearman, Vultee BT-13 Valiant, North American AT-6 Texan and the Cessna AT-17 Bobcat. In 1944, Haydu graduated from WASP Class 44-W-7 and served at Pecos Army Airfield as an engineering test pilot as well as utility pilot for the remainder of the WASP program.

History in the making

Haydu’s career as a woman pilot during World War II was nothing short of groundbreaking. As one of the first women to fly military planes, she—along with other women pilots in the WASP program —entered and excelled in a predominantly male field. During that time, the Army needed additional pilots. With 3,000 trained male pilots already on board, the Army began recruiting and training women through the WASP program. These women received the same training as their male counterparts; however, because the program was considered experimental and categorized as a “civil service,” the women could not serve overseas. Instead, Haydu’s job was to “break in” the engines of overhauled planes by flying them a particular way for a specified amount of time. It is believed she earned her nickname, “Bee,” from the way she flew the planes—similar to that of a bumblebee. An interesting side note: On Sundays, she flew chaplains to various fields so they could present their sermons.

Making her mark

The cancelling of the WASP program in 1944 wasn’t the end of Haydu’s career—it was the beginning. After the war, finding work was difficult. Haydu regrouped, however, and in a big way. She earned her Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating so she could continue to fly. Her various jobs included flying in a comedy show’s airshow act, opening a Cessna dealership and starting a flight school with other veterans. In 1951, she married Joe Haydu, a fellow aviator with whom she had three children.

Through it all, Haydu remained committed to the Women Airforce Service Pilots organization and her fellow women veterans. From 1975-1978, she served as president of the WASP organization, where she led the fight in Congress to recognize women pilots as veterans—more than 30 years after the end of the war. Her efforts—along with those of her fellow WASPs—came to light when President Jimmy Carter signed the G.I Bill Improvement Act of 1977 into law, which not only recognized the members of WASP as veterans but also allowed the WASP access to Veterans Administration benefits.

Recognizing an aviation pioneer

From a young girl who was born and raised in New Jersey to becoming an aviation pioneer, Haydu has left a trailblazing legacy for women in the aviation industry. She and the WASP organization have paved the way for women to soar to new heights. In 2009, Haydu was one of only three surviving WASPs who were present in the Oval Office when President Barack Obama awarded the WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal for their service. Some of her other awards and recognitions include:

Vaughn honors Haydu with an honorary doctorate degree

Vaughn awarded Haydu with an honorary doctorate degree during a commencement ceremony in 2015. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College, stated:

“Bernice Falk Haydu is an outstanding patriot and it is our pleasure to award her with an honorary doctor of science degree and recognize her service to this country. She also spent her life devoted to aviation and blazed a path for women in this industry, and we are thrilled to salute all of her achievements. WASPs have assured that women pilots everywhere are recognized for their achievements and receive the acknowledgement they deserve.”

Haydu’s later years

Haydu’s husband Joe passed away in 2001. She spent her later years in South Florida and published a memoir in 2003, “Letters Home 1944-1945: Women Airforce Service Pilots, World War II,” which includes letters she wrote home to her mother and brother while serving with WASP during the war years. Bernice “Bee” Falk Haydu’s extraordinary service has earned her a spot of recognition during Women’s History Month.

In her own words

“Bee” may be gone, but her legacy will remain a constant reminder of her commitment to women who hold prominent roles in the military and aviation. Here are some parting words to remember her by:

“Follow your dreams. There may be pitfalls along the way but just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue on your way.”

—Bernice “Bee” Falk Haydu

Photo credit: United States Department of Defense

In honor of International Women’s Day 2021, Vaughn College celebrates the extraordinary lives and achievements of women who are making a difference by empowering each other to create a more prosperous and peaceful world. In this special edition, we spotlight five inspiring women who have made their marks in the fields of engineering, management and aviation.

Lysa Scully Leiponis—Former General Manager of LaGuardia Airport

Lysa ScullyAs a pioneer in her own right, Lysa Scully Leiponis credits her mentor, Susan Baer for staying in the aviation field and landing the general manager position at LaGuardia Airport. “I was going to leave aviation for another opportunity, and she came to me and said: ‘I’m not going to let you leave aviation! You are going to run an airport someday.’” In 2013, Scully Leiponis started her top job at LaGuardia and was determined to help other talented women reach the top. She, along with two female employees whom she was mentoring, started the female empowerment group Women Empowering Other Women (WOW), a support system that was near and dear to her heart and a massive supporter of International Women’s Day. After her 33-year career with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Scully Leiponis retired, leaving behind her stellar contributions. One of her most notable contributions was her employee-centric management style that was geared toward the success and well-being of her employees and colleagues. As both a trustee of Vaughn College and an advocate for women in aviation, Scully Leiponis states: “It’s all about giving back to the women coming after us—we’re only here for the moment.”

Kimberly Bryant—Founder and CEO of Black Girls Code

Kimberly Bryant
Photo Credit: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Kimberly Bryant is making incredible strides in advocating for the advancement of young girls in STEM-related fields. Her inspiration was sparked when her daughter, who had an interest in computer programming, discovered there were no available courses in the Bay area that were right for her or had other African American girls enrolled. Realizing this gap of underrepresented girls, Bryant founded Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization that trains and teaches basic programming concepts to interested youngsters. Did you know African American women make up less than three percent of the workforce in the technology industry? Black Girls Code is on a mission to improve those numbers. To date, the organization has trained 3,000 girls in seven chapters throughout the United States and has plans to add eight more cities. As an electrical engineer, Bryant hopes Black Girls Code not only increases the awareness of the exciting and fulfilling careers available to women in the field, but also helps to increase women’s representation in technology fields.

Christina Koch—American Engineer and NASA Astronaut

Christina Koch
Photo Credit: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers

The achievements by NASA astronaut Christina Koch are out of this world—literally. To date, she reached two historic milestones. The first occurred in December 2018 onboard the International Space Station when she broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, originally set by Peggy Whitson, a former station commander. The second was in October 2019 when she was part of the first all-female spacewalk. Koch holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Prior to being selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2013, Koch began her career as an electrical engineer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics.

Laura I. Gómez—Founder of Atipica

Laura Gomez
Photo Credit: Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla

Laura Gómez is a driving force in the technology world as she is inspiring underrepresented women to “Stay true and loyal to your potential—not anyone else’s but your own.” Growing up in Silicon Valley as an undocumented immigrant, Gómez obtained her work permit at the age of 17 and landed an internship at Hewlett-Packard. After experiencing discrimination in the workplace, her first instinct was to leave her job. But her mother knew best. Gómez continued her career in the technology industry and went on to be one of the only Latinas at Google and YouTube. She forged on to become a founding member of Twitter’s international team which eventually led to Twitter expanding their product into 50 languages and dozens of countries. In 2015, she founded Atipica, a venture-backed startup that uses artificial and human intelligence to help companies make bias-free decisions in their hiring processes. Known as the one of the technology industry’s leading ladies, Gómez is involved with several nonprofit organizations and has been recognized for her involvement in the TechWomen Program by the Department of State and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Gwynn Shotwell—President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX

Gwynn Shotwell
Photo Credit: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Gwynn Shotwell’s significant contributions to the aerospace industry as president and chief operating officer of SpaceX are leaving a blazing trail of history to the stars. As an American businesswoman and engineer, Shotwell has contributed to the design of reusable rockets, which is catapulting SpaceX to new heights. In 2002, she joined SpaceX as the company’s seventh employee and was hired as vice president of business development. She was promoted six years later to her current position, where she is responsible for managing customer and strategic relations as well as day-to-day operations. Over the years, SpaceX has completed several exciting and successful missions under Shotwell’s guidance. Future endeavors include sending astronauts to the International Space Station and eventually to Mars. Shotwell holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in applied mathematics, with honors.

We hope you enjoyed reading about these fascinating and inspiring women. What inspires you to be your best? A degree from Vaughn College can get you there. Whether your passion is in engineering and technology, management or aviation, Vaughn will be by your side throughout the journey. Apply today!

Want to learn more about International Women’s Day? Check it out here.

February is Black History Month. It is a time when we celebrate the achievements of African Americans and recognize their notable contributions to our country and its history.

To honor this special time, we are spotlighting influential African Americans whose lives, careers and pioneering efforts in the fields of aviation and engineering have paved the way for future generations.

Guy Bluford: First African American Astronaut in Space

Guy Bluford
Photo Credit: MPI/Getty Images

Born in Philadelphia in 1942, Guy Bluford served as both an officer and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force before he went to work for NASA. In 1978, he was selected to participate in the NASA astronaut training program. With several degrees in aerospace engineering to his merit, Bluford made history in 1983 when he became the first African American in space as a member of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

It’s important to note: Historically, Bluford may be known as the first Black astronaut in space; however, it was Robert Lawrence who became the first Black astronaut in American history. Sadly, he was killed on a test flight in December 1967, never realizing his dream of traveling into space. Lawrence earned his PhD in physical chemistry and—like Bluford—served as both an officer and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Wanda Austin: First Woman and African American to Hold CEO Position of The Aerospace Corporation

Wanda Austin

Born in The Bronx, New York in 1954, Wanda Austin is considered a trailblazer and pioneer for women in the U.S. aerospace industry. With a doctorate in systems engineering, she was the first woman—and first African American—to hold the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Aerospace Corporation, which employs approximately 3,600 employees and has annual sales revenues totaling more than $917 million. Austin was not only responsible for ensuring the national security within the space community, but she was appointed by President Obama to be on the Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee (a group that advises the government on the future of space missions.) Austin retired in 2016 but remains an active consultant for the corporation.


Lonnie Johnson: Successful African American NASA Engineer and Inventor

Lonnie Johnson

Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1949, Lonnie Johnson has made a name for himself on many levels. He is not only a successful NASA engineer and an important member of the U.S. Air Force government scientific establishment, but he is the inventor of the wildly popular toy, the “Super Soaker,” which topped $200 million in sales in 1991! Johnson’s passion for engineering began at early age when he entered a science fair in high school. He was the only Black student in the fair and created a compressed air-powered robot that he named “Linex,” which earned him the first-place award. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. He also holds an honorary PhD in Science from his alma mater, Tuskegee University. Johnson founded his company—Johnson Research and Development Co.—and currently owns two technology-development companies that develop and manufacture revolutionary technology. Notably, Johnson is “part of a group of African American inventors whose work accounts for six percent of all U.S. patent applications.”1

Walt Braithwaite: Pioneer of Computer-Aided Design/Manufacturing at Boeing and Highest-Ranking Executive at the Company

Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1945, Walt Braithwaite knew from an early age he would enter the engineering field. Raised from humble beginnings, he took correspondence courses in diesel engineering and worked as an apprentice in a maritime machine shop. He moved to the U.S., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in computer science. As a Boeing Sloan Fellow, Braithwaite attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned another master’s degree in business management. Little did he know when he joined Boeing’s Fabrication Division in 1966 as an associate tool engineer that he and his team would go on to develop one of the most important inventions of the 20th century—a computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) system for Boeing. This groundbreaking achievement helped transform the aerospace industry, allowing airplanes to be designed and “manufactured” digitally instead of through the time-consuming task of manually drafting the mock-ups of new airplane models. After an extensive and impressive 34-year career with Boeing, Braithwaite was named President of Boeing Africa, making him the highest-ranking Black executive at Boeing. He retired in 2003.

Ursula Burns: First African American CEO of a Fortune 500 Company

Ursula Burns
Photo credit; REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Born in 1958, Ursula Burns is the ultimate success story of an intern who worked her way to the top. Raised by a single mother in the housing projects of New York City, she attended what is now New York University Tandon School of Engineering, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She went on to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. Burns joined Xerox as a summer intern, straight out of Columbia, and worked her way up to Chief Executive Officer (CEO), making her the first African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She served as CEO for seven years and then held the position of Xerox chairwoman for another seven years. In 2014, Forbes rated Burns as the 22nd most powerful woman in the world. She is also known for other civic positions, which include serving as a leader of the STEM program of the White House and the head of the President’s Export Council. From 2018-2020, she served as the chair and CEO of VEON and as a senior adviser to Teneo. Burns currently serves on the board of directors of Uber.

Do you have a passion for engineering? As you can see from these amazing success stories, an engineering degree can set you on a path to a futureproof career. It could even land you in the history books someday! Discover what possibilities are open to you with an engineering degree from Vaughn College. Apply today.

1 References: Karlin, S. (2002-07-01). “From squirts to hertz [Lonnie Johnson, inventor]”. IEEE Spectrum39 (7): 46–48. doi:10.1109/MSPEC.2002.1015464ISSN 0018-9235.

Investing in your education is the first step toward a successful career. For engineering majors the field is wide open, as there are job opportunities across many industries. Here, we explore the many careers you can pursue with a mechanical engineering degree. But first, let’s discuss what mechanical engineers actually do.

The role of mechanical engineers

Look around you. Nearly every machine or process you see has been influenced in some way by a mechanical engineer. As one of the broadest engineering disciplines, mechanical engineers perform tasks that range from the planning and designing of tools, engines and mechanically functioning equipment to the generation, distribution and use of energy—and so much more. Even your refrigerator and microwave are possible thanks to mechanical engineers. (Who knew?) Today’s industry trends have opened up a world of exciting career opportunities. Here are our picks of the top five mechanical engineering careers:

1. Biomedical engineer

If you’ve ever had an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or a dental implant, then your life has been touched by the work of a biomedical engineer. This fascinating area of engineering is diverse as it combines biological sciences with engineering design. The role of biomedical engineers is to improve the quality of human life while advancing healthcare. Their work has aided the efforts of doctors in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a scope of medical conditions. Here are just some of the products biomedical engineers create:

  • Prosthetic limbs
  • Wearable technology
  • Implantable drug delivery systems
  • Dialysis machines
  • Injectable nanorobotics
  • Large full-body imaging

In addition to the broad scope of jobs performed by biomedical engineers, the area of working with biomaterials is just as critical to today’s healthcare. Here are some examples of engineered materials that are changing the lives of patients:

  • Implants
  • Stents
  • Artificial organs
  • Pacemakers
  • Dental products

Read more about this exciting topic in our blog: How Medical 3D Printing is Advancing the Healthcare Industry.

2. Sustainable engineer

In a time when sustainable energy is at the forefront of our environmental agenda, the demand for sustainable engineers is on the rise. The role of sustainable engineers is to redesign and retrofit existing systems by applying the principles of engineering and design, and analyzing current operations, production quality and deficiencies. The goal is to accomplish this in a way that has a positive effect on social and economic development balanced with limited impact on the environment, and without depleting materials for future generations. Some examples of sustainable design include:

  • Geothermal construction
  • Solar and wind-powered lighting, heating and cooling systems
  • Waste, heat and water recovery systems

3. Automotive engineer

There’s so much more to automobiles than filling the gas tank and checking the oil and tire pressure. Most of us don’t think twice about the design and inner workings of our cars; we just want to get to where we’re going. Automotive engineers are the professionals “behind the scenes” who work in all aspects of vehicle design and performance. They design the systems and mechanisms of prototype cars and also ensure that these vehicles are built within the parameters of quality and cost-effective materials. Automotive engineers are responsible for analyzing and resolving any design problems and overseeing their manufacture. Here are some other key skills and requirements that aspiring automotive engineers need in order to land the job:

A special shout out is in order for Vaughn graduate, Niki Taheri ’19, for landing her dream job at Volvo Trucks Technology in Greensboro, NC. Way to go, Niki! In addition, the automotive industry will continue to generate new engineering jobs with advancements in electric cars and autonomous (self-driving) vehicle technology.

*It is advised to consider an institution, such as Vaughn College, that offers a mechanical engineering program that is ABET-accredited, since few institutions offer bachelor’s program specifically for automotive engineering. ABET accreditation ensures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields that are leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies.

4. Construction/structural engineer

Did you ever cross a bridge and wonder: “How did they build that?” These marvelous structures are possible thanks to the ingenuity and amazing design, problem-solving and analytical skills of construction or structural engineers. These professionals possess excellent communication and leadership skills, and must pay close attention to detail. Construction engineers play a key role in the successful design, execution and maintenance of load-bearing structures including:

  • Railroads
  • Roadways
  • Buildings
  • Drainage and sewer systems

Construction engineers specialize in particular types of projects. These specialties include:

  • Building commercial housing or buildings
  • Electrical systems
  • Mechanical systems such as plumbing, heating and cooling systems
  • Highway or heavy projects that include bridges, airports, highways or water-waste systems

5. Civil engineer

A civil engineer may seem similar to a construction engineer, as the two careers involve the design and construction of buildings, roads and bridges. The difference between the two is that a civil engineer works in a more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-focused field that involves environments where people live. In addition, the civil engineer does more of the designing where the construction engineer specializes in on the on-site implementation of the plans created by the civil engineer. A civil engineer ensures that the design meets federal, state and local building codes.

There are several specialty areas of civil engineering, all of which require a solid foundation and knowledge in math, physics, design, economics and even materials science. Some examples of these specialty areas include:

  • Architectural engineering
  • Water resource engineering
  • Transportation engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering

Civil engineers typically design large projects. Some examples of these projects include:

  • Subway systems
  • Tunnels
  • Dams
  • Water supply networks

As you can see, engineering is all around us. What field of mechanical engineering interests you? Discover how a mechanical engineering degree from Vaughn College can set you on a futureproof path to success. Apply today!

Sometimes, you need not look any further than your own backyard to see your future. For Vaughn College senior Samia Oishi ’21, her love of engineering and her family’s tradition of growing their own food were the driving forces that motivated her to pursue a degree in mechatronic engineering and a career in renewable energy.

Planting roots

Born in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Oishi’s family moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was two years old. For as long as she can remember, Oishi said her parents always grew their own fruits and vegetables in their garden in Brooklyn. “I didn’t realize it then, but our garden was my first taste of learning about sustainable energy.”

Throughout her school days, Oishi said she always enjoyed science, but it wasn’t until she joined the robotics team in high school that she became hooked. “I joined the robotics team just for fun,” she said. “I didn’t know much about it at the time. Little did I know how it would put me on a path to Vaughn College.” She explained how being part of a team was a great learning experience. In her sophomore year in high school, Oishi went on to become the co-captain of the team—a position she maintained until graduation.

Discovering Vaughn

During her senior year, Oishi and her friend decided to attend a college fair at her high school. “I happened to meet an admissions adviser from Vaughn while at the college fair,” she explained. “When I heard about the mechatronic engineering program, I knew immediately it was the program for me. That day changed my life.”

In 2017, Oishi enrolled at Vaughn. She joined a learning community of a group of students who shared the same interests and schedules. “Joining the learning community was a wonderful experience,” she said. “Vaughn is an amazing college. The small class sizes, wonderful staff of professors and student community make going to college feel like my home away from home.”

Making connections

Oishi landed an internship at Kinetic Communities Consulting, a New York Minority and Women-owned Benefit Corporation that works with utilities and government agencies to help diverse New York communities adapt to solar and sustainable energy. “My role there plays a major part of who I am and where I’m striving to be in the future,” said Oishi. “We educate low-income families about the importance of solar energy and show them how to use and install it. It’s all about helping people make their lives better.”

This past summer, Oishi’s mentor at the internship recommended she apply for an exclusive fellowship at Woman of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE), a national non-profit organization dedicated to building a diverse workforce for the success of global sustainable energy. The application process was rigorous, but Oishi said it was well worth the effort. In addition to submitting her résumé and cover letter, the process required a letter of recommendation, written essay and a telephone interview. Of numerous applicants across the country, WRISE only accepts six candidates for the prestigious fellowship position. “I was thrilled to learn that I was selected to be a 2020 solar power fellow for WRISE,” she said excitedly. For the past four months, Oishi has been networking with other members of the fellowship and learning about the renewable energy industry. “It’s been an amazing experience and extremely beneficial for a student like me, who will be entering the workforce next year. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity. From fellows to friends, it’s all about making connections.”

Looking to the future

With a passionate heart, Oishi stated she is excited to pursue a career in the renewable energy industry. With only one semester to go, she explains how her degree in mechatronic engineering will give her a competitive edge in the field. “Automation already exists in the industry,” Oishi said. “My knowledge of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering will position me favorably for the workforce.”

Harvesting her heritage

At the end of the day, Oishi says she thanks her parents for instilling in her a love for their country and traditions that are deeply rooted in her heritage. “Planting a garden is so much more than watching your food grow. It’s all about the pride in harvesting the food and sharing it with those who need it most. I always wanted to pursue a career to help the world. I’m grateful to Vaughn for helping me get there.”

Is a career in engineering in your future? Discover all that’s possible with an engineering degree from Vaughn College. Apply today.